I have now been in Taipei for two months, and I feel like I’m finally settling into this beautiful and dynamic city, after going through some minor culture shock, as any person would as they move into a new country.
Many of you have asked me what life is like here and are interested in hearing about the everyday life of the locals and how I’m adjusting. I’m happy to share with you all as seen through my own personal lens.
To make it fun, I’ve made them into lessons I’ve learned about living in Taipei and my impression of it so far. 🙂
5 things I’ve learned so far…
Lesson #1: The umbrella is my best friend.
I am not kidding when I say this. The weather is unpredictable at times, and I’ve found out that it rains a lot especially during summer and autumn. After all, it is typhoon season. Thus it’s super handy to have an umbrella on me at all times because it might rain after a few hours of sun, or vice-versa.
I used to scoff at the idea of people especially ladies carrying umbrellas while it is sunny. The main purpose of carrying the umbrella is to protect their face from the sun. Guess who is doing that now? Me. The sun is extremely strong here and even with sunblock, it doesn’t protect my face from the sun properly. I get freckles easily from the sun so in the interest of having as little freckles as possible on my face, I have now resorted to using the umbrella like the locals. Frankly, I feel quite at home doing it. I guess this saying is true: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” 😉 Well, in this case, do as the Taiwanese do!
Lesson #2: Mosquitoes are my enemies!
Since day one of my arrival, I’ve been pestered by these little bugs. In my naivete, I thought there would be hardly any mosquitoes in Taipei since it’s a big city. Well, how wrong I was. It seems that they are everywhere and they love me a lot. Almost every day when I come home, I have a new mosquito bite mostly on my legs but sometimes in very interesting places that I’ve never had while in Canada.
One of my aunts shared her secret recipe of keeping mosquitoes away since I really didn’t want to apply any chemicals on my skin anymore. I’m looking into more natural or organic skin products these days. She told me all I had to do was dab a few drops of sesame oil onto a cotton pad and then apply it onto my wrists, ankles and neck. I personally vouch that this method works! 🙂
Lesson #3: Taiwanese people are really friendly and helpful.
I know I’m quite directionally challenged, but before leaving Canada I was determined that while living in Taipei, I’ll work on my own navigational skills and REALLY learn how to read a map. I mean, come on, everyone knows how to read a google map right? Well, apparently not. On my first day of using google map on my cell, I was extremely unsuccessful. Instead of arriving at said place which was about 5 minutes from my location, as indicated by google map, I was getting further and further away.
As a result, I decided to go back to my #1 method of finding a place which is by asking people. Since I tend to get lost a lot, even in my own city or when travelling, I’m not shy in asking people for directions. This is the first city where almost every time I ask someone how to get to a place, they would personally take me there! It has happened to me more than five times now. I’m really touched by the warmth and helpful spirit of the locals here. 🙂
Lesson #4: Taipei’s subway (MRT-Mass Rapid Transit) system is amazing!
My home is right next to a subway station and I have to tell you that I’m simply amazed by how the MRT runs. Like clockwork, I can rely on it consistently. There are screens located throughout the station telling passengers when the next train will arrive. It’s really high-tech, in comparison to the subway system in my home city. And you can go almost everywhere in Taipei using the subway system as many main attractions have their own station name, and each station has at least 4 exits where the places and streets you want to go to are clearly labelled, so you know which exit to take to reach your destination.
I’m also amazed by the good manners of the commuters. Since I’ve been here, I’ve only seen everyone abiding by the rules of the MRT. For example, the priority seating on the subway are colour coded in blue; and no one occupies it unless they are elderly, pregnant, handicapped or with very young children. When you get off the subway, no one is rushing off; there’s almost a zen like atmosphere, where people follow one after the other to go on the right side of the escalator and wait patiently for their turn to board it to go up. Even people walking on the left side, are walking calmly, as if they have all the time in the world.
Here are some photos of rules that remind commuters how to behave on the MRT:
Here are photos of the very well-behaved commuters:
Lesson #5: Taipei is extremely bike-friendly!
In almost every big intersection I walk to, there are bikes that I can use to go anywhere when I don’t feel like walking. I simply have to use my EasyCard to rent a bike and off I go. These bikes, known as YouBikes, are owned by the Taipei city government and it’s for public use. The government wants to encourage its citizens to use these bikes as a greener alternative to improve the quality and environments of its city.
Another form of transportation that I see a lot of locals use is the motorcycle or scooter. According to locals, a motorbike or scooter is fast, convenient and cheaper than owning a car. I have to admit I was shocked when I first saw this scene on my first day to university, as there are more cars on the road where I come from:
Now I’m so used to seeing many motorcycles and scooters on the road; it’s just a form of transportation and way of life here.
Some might think that Taipei might be a bit too bike-friendly as bikes and motorbikes/scooters are allowed on the sidewalk with pedestrians. At first I was scared of being run over by the bikes and/or motorcycles/scooters as I’m walking on the sidewalk but after a few weeks, I got used to it. Plus, the cyclists or motorcyclists are quite experienced in navigating on the sidewalk.
Today I managed to navigate myself around pedestrians, other cyclists and motorcyclists on the sidewalks on my way home with my youbike. I’ve finally gained a vital survival skill in Taipei. Not bad for someone who just came 2 months ago! 🙂
Stay tuned for the next 5 lessons as I continue living in my new home city, Taipei! 🙂